Monday, August 21, 2006

Why Book Titles Are Important?

I’m often surprised when I receive a fiction query and it doesn’t have a book title. Or from what is there, it’s obvious the writer didn’t put much thought or energy into the title.  While ultimately the publisher will select the title, I regularly tell authors if they create an excellent title, it will stick throughout the publishing process. Book-titles

Book titles are one of the key ways you can hook your editor. It’s a topic to pour some considerable thought and creativity because it might pay off for you—with a book contract.

This past week the publicity wheels on television have been turning for the movie, Snakes on a Plane. While I don’t plan to see this film, I understand the draw of the title. Repeatedly I’ve seen Samuel Jackson say, “All I needed to hear was the title and I knew I wanted to be in this film.” It’s the same with books. I’ve been in publication board meetings with a room full of executives. Everyone will get excited about a particular concept and most of the enthusiasm comes from the title.  Inherently they know people will be drawn to the book.

A recent New York Times article, Titles That Didn’t Smell As Sweet by Thomas Vinciguerra was fascinating. [If for some reason this link doesn’t work, google the title to see if you can find it—I did in a matter of seconds. The original place I had stored wanted to charge me $4.99 to access the full article. I hope this link works for you and I purchased the newspaper.] I love the story which opens this article, “In late 1924, a young writer sent his new novel, “Trimalchio in West Egg,” to Charles Scribner’s Sons. The publishers hated the title. “Consider as quickly as you can a change,” wrote the editor, Maxwell Perkins. F. Scott Fitzgerald quickly complied; he substituted “The Great Gatsby.”” Who would have purchased the first title? I certainly read The Great Gatsby

Sometimes a book title will become a phrase that enters the culture. For example, if you say something is a catch-22, you know the quandary of the situation. Yet this best-selling novel from Joseph Heller was almost Catch-18 according to the article. While it’s perfectly OK to have a “working title” with your book, make sure you give it your absolute best before you pitch the title to a book publisher. If you need any more encouragement about titles, go over and sign up for Mahesh Grossman’s free report on Strategies For A Six-Figure Advance. You will get on Grossman’s newsletter list (which I find valuable). One of the keys to getting published is an excellent book title. I can’t overstate the importance of a good title.

5 Comment:

At 10:50 AM, Blogger Cindy Thomson Left a note...

Interesting article. Thanks for pointing it out. I thought the working title for what ended up being "It Could Happen to You" was terrible. I loved that movie.

For my two books, one title was kept, the other replaced. Both times I believe the publishers made the correct decision!


At 11:19 AM, Blogger Crystal Laine Left a note...

In my professional writing class at Taylor University, Dr. Dennis E. Hensley spent some time on titles and it has always stuck with me. I find the stories of "what it was almost titled" fascinating. As always, great post, which hits me right in my interest zone.

At 6:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous Left a note...

Thank you, Mr. Whalen.

It's bad enough that someone in Hollywood keeps giving movies stupid, empty, meaningless two-word titles:

Maximum Velocity.
Maximum Impact.
Total Impact.
Impact Velocity.

When I see books on the front shelf of Borders with titles like these I despair for the state of marketing creativity.

At 6:23 AM, Blogger Kristy Dykes Left a note...

Great post. I love coming up with interesting titles that I hope have reader hook. For my first published novella in American Dream (4-in-1 collection from Barbour, 2000), I titled it "I Take Thee, A Stranger." It was about an arranged marriage.

Thanks for a creativity sparker today.

At 2:03 PM, Blogger Author Beginnings Left a note...

Hi, I just surfed into your site and wanted to say thanks - :)

Wendy Christensen
Every author starts somewhere ...


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